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How to Better Support Parents in the Workplace

Clock6 min. read
byVexxit Staff onFebruary 24, 2021

Companies that adapt their working model to support the needs of working parents in these difficult times will benefit from happier, focused and less-stressed employees. Learn how your company can better support working parent.

Being a working parent is a tough gig. Balancing work-family life is a daunting, never-ending effort that became more challenging with the outbreak of COVID-19. School and daycare closures suddenly had working parents scrambling to source alternate care arrangements for their children, transition to work-from-home (if an option), reduce their working hours or they were forced to take a leave from work. Adding to the growing list of challenges and financial strain, working parents of school-aged children were unexpectedly thrown into the role of “home-school teacher”, while simultaneously juggling work commitments. Unfortunately, even with vaccines available, the coronavirus isn’t going away any time soon, which means working parents will continue to contend with modified reopening of schools and daycares to minimize virus exposure among children. 

Companies have had to pivot and adapt to the changes brought about by COVID-19 to not only remain viable, but to retain top talent in this new reality. Thriving in a post-COVID-19 world means companies will need to revisit existing employment policies, programs and practices to accommodate the changing needs of working parents. Here are a few ways that companies can better support working parents:

Find out what’s needed

Before launching any support program for working parents, first discover what they need. Go straight to the source and talk to employees. By having open and honest conversations with employees, company leaders can understand more about the challenges working parents face. When you open a dialogue with working parents, you give them a forum to be heard. While there is no “one-size fits all” solution able to address every working parent issue, implementing those that working parents find most useful will reduce their burden. 

Loosen up a little; be flexible

One of the best ways for employers to support working parents during the pandemic (with minimal interruption to business) is to loosen restrictions for paid leave and enable more flexibility in working hours. With flexible hours, working parents can adjust their work schedules to align with the competing needs of parenting. Depending on the job or workload, flexible hours may not always be possible. However, flexibility might be possible on occasion, which can alleviate some of the stress working parents are under during this time. Other options for introducing flexibility in the workplace include, flex-start times, adopting a shorter workweek or splitting or blocking time off to manage childcare or after school pick up. Companies that adapt their working model to support the needs of working parents in these difficult times will benefit from happier, focused and less-stressed employees. 

Offer a work-from-home option (if it’s feasible)

When COVID-19 erupted, many working parents were forced to work from home to limit the spread of the virus. Work-from-home (or WFH) options are a great way to support working parents while allowing companies to continue serving the needs of their customers and community. Whether WFH is implemented as a temporary measure during this pandemic or it becomes a long-term option, WFH options make it easier for working parents to manage family responsibilities. If employees can’t work from home, due to the job requirement, then flexible scheduling or alternate work arrangements may still allow working parents the time they need to manage family. 

Create workplace parent support groups

Creating a support group in the workplace is a simple way to support working parents. It gives parents an avenue to connect with each other, share tips or concerns and challenges, as well as ideas and helpful solutions. Parent support groups are easily started because a good percentage of employees are parents. It’s just a matter of getting it established and then making it accessible. Dealing with the ups and downs of raising kids is a common bond shared by every parent, having a forum to openly discuss parenting challenges will lessen the stress working parents are under. 

Get the word out about available resources

Many companies already have employee resources and support programs available, such as employee assistance programs, human resource staff, training programs, mental health programs, counselling and therapy benefits, along with other helpful benefits that working parents can take advantage of when needed. However, if employees are unaware of them, they can’t make use of them. Get the word out, promote available programs and ensure these programs and benefits are accessible by all.

Lead with empathy

While there is no perfect solution to many of these issues, proactively reach out to employees, acknowledge the challenges they face, and where relevant, lead by modeling the behaviour and attitude, you as a manager, desire in employees. Be open about your own family situation, it will lessen the reluctance many working parents feel to ask for help.

Supporting working parents during this pandemic (and beyond) can increase productivity, improve loyalty and boost morale, all while fostering a more inclusive, family-oriented company culture. Do your best to support working parents by giving them the autonomy to be both a parent and an employee. Consult with an HR professional to help you adapt existing policies and programs or develop and implement new programs designed to assist working parents with creating a workable work-family life balance. 

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